Tuesday, July 28, 2009

chip off superblock

And another old video. We've been in the convert-from-VHS biz lately. I like this one. It was produced by Penn admissions and featured George "Chip" Blaustein as a Writers House mainstay: he was on the KWH staff, member of the "Virgin House Quartet" which played in our Arts Cafe every Thursday night for several years. Click here and watch the excerpt.

When "Chip"/George graduated, we honored him and here is the recording of that toast.

Writers House on the agenda

Penn made its "Agenda for Excellence" video a few years ago (during the Judith Rodin administration) and the Writers House had its 30-second segment. Go here to watch the whole video. To see the KWH segment, click anywhere on the video image to open up a QuickTime video window. Then set your counter to 2:40.

my six-word memoir

Sometimes I have a good notion.

Alice Neel

A 7-minute video shows dozens of Alice Neel portraits, including this one of Frank O'Hara.

that good wild big life teeming along the road

William Shatner performs Sarah Palin's farewell speech as a Beat nature poem: here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

poets hate living

"Like a mole, American poets are snuffling in the dirt of the psyche’s underground, sniffing out every dark crevice of their own subconscious." More lovely sentences like this can be found in A.S. Maulucci's screed, published recently. His main complaint: American poetry has turned away from beauty. "Real poetry" has fiery passion, but much contemporary verse is written by people who "hate living." And so on.

against the current

Sarah Ehlers has written a review of my Counter-Revolution of the Word and it has now been published in Against the Current, the May/June 2009 issue. Here is a PDF copy of it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

from the annals of odd convergences

Walter Cronkite met Gertrude Stein. Here it is, as reported by the NY Times:

A 1935 profile of Gertrude Stein from The Daily Texan, unearthed by the student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin and published at its Web site, was written by Walter Cronkite, who was an 18-year-old undergraduate at the university when he wrote it. (Mr. Cronkite’s memorial service was on Thursday; a report by Brian Stelter is here.)

Speaking to Stein in advance of her appearance at the university’s Hogg Auditorium on March 22, 1935, Mr. Cronkite wrote that, even though he “imposed upon her at a late hour last night,” the author was “genuine — the real thing in person. Her thinking is certainly straightforward; her speech is the same.”

After recording her attire (“a mannish blouse, a tweed skirt, a peculiar but attractive vest affair, and comfortable looking shoes”), Mr. Cronkite talked with her about the proper role of the writer and the impact of the Great Depression, then in its sixth year.

Discussing her craft, Stein told Mr. Cronkite, “A writer isn’t anything but contemporary. The trouble is that the people are living Twentieth Century and thinking Nineteenth Century.”

Presaging former Senator Phil Gramm’s remarks about a “mental recession,” Stein said that the Great Depression was “more moral than actual. No longer the people think they are depressed, the depression is over.”

(Stein proved less prescient when she said that “those who know in France didn’t believe that there would be a war.” She added: “But then war is just like anything else. When people get tired of peace they will have war and when they get tired of war they will have peace. Don’t you, when you have been good for a long time, want to be bad?”)

After Mr. Cronkite noted the presence of “Miss Alice B. Toklas, Miss Stein’s traveling companion whose title is not ‘secretary,’ ” he wrote that she enjoyed her first trip to Texas. (“This is a beautiful big State of yours,” she told him.) And that’s the way it was.

that iambic voice

“It was as if his hand was on my shoulder when he spoke.”--Sandy Jones

Thursday, July 23, 2009

60? no way

In March 2010 Charles Bernstein's selected poems will be published (to coincide with his 60th birthday).

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
March 2010
app. 300 pp.
ISBN 978-0-374-10344-6

All the Whiskey in Heaven brings together some of Charles Bernstein’s best work from the past thirty years, an astonishing assortment of different types of poems. Yet, despite the distinctive differences from poem to poem, Bernstein’s characteristic explorations of how language both limits and liberates thought are present throughout. Modulating the comic and the dark, structural invention with buoyant sound play, these challenging works give way to poems of lyric excess and striking emotional range. This is poetry for poetry’s sake, as formally radical as it is socially engaged, providing equal measures of aesthetic pleasure, hilarity, and philosopical reflection. Long considered one of America’s most inventive and influential contemporary poets, Bernstein reveals himself to be both trickster and charmer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bob's unruly inner child

Today we are releasing PoemTalk episode 19 - a discussion by Tom Mandel, Sarah Dowling and Rodrigo Toscano (above, left to right) of Bob Perelman's poem "The Unruly Child."

future of research

"The income-producing research activity will follow the trend of moving into nondepartmental locations — institutes, centers, and programs — that can be closed with less fuss if the income dries up."--MARC BOUSQUET, Associate professor at Santa Clara University, and author of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (New York University Press, 2008)

From: "FORUM: The Faculty of the Future: Leaner, Meaner, More Innovative, Less Secure," Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tim Carmody, whom I admire and whose blog, Facebook updates and now tweeting I follow, has a statement here too, part of which reads:

The curriculum, especially in the humanities, valorizes thoughtful curation and recirculation of material rather than comprehension or originality. The traditional unidirectional model of knowledge transmission (best represented by the now-deprecated "lecture") has been effectively discredited, although it persists through habit, inertia, and whispered doubts about the efficacy and rigidity of the new model. Many professors periodically pause to lecture, but only apologetically, or when distanced by ironic quotation marks. / The 'teens are as widely remembered for technical innovation and radical dissemination of knowledge as the '20s are for job loss, technological retrenchment, and economic concentration. In 2019, when Google used its capital to snap up the course-management giant Blackboard and the Ebsco, LexisNexis, and Ovid databases, it effectively became the universal front end for research and teaching in the academy.

Anyone who has read this blog knows how much I would (and do) disagree with Tim's use of the lecture (his valorization of it and pre-nostaligia for it) in this scenario. His error is to tie inextricably the "traditional unidirectional model of knowledge transmission" (which he implicitly commends) to the techno-corporate consolidation of profit-making information providers.

Now, as for "originality" in this context: oh, don't get me started. For another time. I promise.

(For more from me on the lecture, click on "end of the lecture" just below.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

the form of our uncertainty

Gil Ott died in 2004 and is sorely missed in Philly poetry scenes, and (to be specific about one of many such sites where we miss Gil) at the Writers House where Gil was fairly regularly a member of audiences for PhillyTalks, poetry readings, book celebrations for poetry-world colleagues (especially Philly poets). Kristen Gallagher edited a book of commentary and critical response to Gil's work (published by Chax Press) and in the fall of '01 we hosted a Gil Ott celebration, co-organized by then-director of KWH Kerry Sherin and also Kristen Gallagher. For about a year PennSound's Gil Ott page featured the whole recording of the 1.5-hour event and also segmented single mp3s of each reader. But today we're releasing the 17th PennSound podcast - a 23-minute excerpt of the whole event, edited by Steve McLaughlin. Here's a link to the PennSound podcast page.

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More: When Gil interviewed Jackson Mac Low.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Bill Clinton plane ride dream

We at PennSound have put together a new author page - for Tina Darragh. Some very great stuff here. Already there are eight readings. One of them (her PhillyTalks program, with Jena Osman) is segmented into individual poems. The others we'll segment later. My favorite poem at the moment is "Bill Clinton Plane Ride Dream." Here is your link to that audio.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

MJ chat

Click on the image above. My favorite line: "Yeah, it's trembling right now," where "it" is the internet. Here's the whole thing.

a thoughtful response

Recently I posted here a review of a book called Wallace Stevens across the Atlantic, a collection of essays on Stevens "in" Europe and Stevens "and" Europe. I was less enamored of the latter positioning, finding it a catch-all concept which netted the editors good but conceptually miscellaneous essays. Edward Ragg has written a very thoughtful response and has given me permission to make it available here (as a PDF). I love dialogues like this; Edward's collegial response (somewhat ironically) made me more confident that writing my criticism of his work was the right thing to do (rather than the more typical blandly positive review I tend to write).